(Downtown Gardiner. That’s pretty much all of it too.)
That’s right; we rented a car in Lexington, Kentucky and drove to Maine. Via Pennsylvania, New York, Boston, and those excellent booze warehouses in New Hampshire.
Once more, we imposed ourselves upon our friends Kurt and Ilana (and Kurt’s mom, Karen, whose kitchen we totally commandeered on a nightly basis), who have since moved from LA, where they were our last visit. Kurt was in the midst of remodeling a very old downtown brick building that was originally plastered, quaintly, with horsehair. Plucked horses. Holding the plaster together. Kurt is a modern man though, and was using drywall to cover up the mayhem. His tenants had recently moved out of the top floor apartment so we got an entire apartment for our very own during our stay in Gardiner. It was a cute place right downtown and our neighbors were extremely friendly and had names like “Stoner Dave.”
(You know, just the local beverage and redemption place.)
We spent the majority of our Downtown Gardiner, Maine mornings on the prowl for breakfast. We started with the Isamax Bakery, a place I learned was named after the founder’s two children—Isabella and Maxx, not after some gnarly industrial detergent, and famous on Oprah for Whoopie Pies.
And we bought some Whoopie Pies.
(Here’s a really big one! You have to love it. I love it.)
Joshua went with the ‘classic’ and I went with some newfangled ginger cookie one. The coffee was good. The Whoopie Pies were, um, well, we were not interested in eating the entire things to find out. They are sort of like Hostess except homemade—a chocolate cake thing with “cream” inside. But the cream is really weird, dense but airy and sort of grainy, despite assurances by the bakery lady to the contrary. Evidently there are a lot of people making whoopie pies in Maine but Isamax is the original. For what it’s worth.
The next day we made it about thirty feet more to Bagel Mania. Coffee is okay (the Isamax coffee was actually better) and DAMN do they put a lot of cream cheese on their bagels. Breakfast #3 was at the bakery almost to the corner. Coffee was not very good but the cookies and pastries were great. I had this almond and white chocolate chunk cookie that was packed with much butter so that it cooked out all flat and crunchy and lacey. Damn I already miss baked goods.
We did some hiking, some driving around to see random things like bizarre church signage and cool hardware stores.
This one sort of channels the 1988 Bobby McFerrin hit “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and that annoying “Got Milk?” ad campaign.
Many, many old tools. Particularly old saws and manual/hand drills. Three floors in an old barn of the stuff stacked all willy nilly. Plus a few randoms like the sheet music for the 80s hit “Ghostbusters” or a coat/gun rack made of the four upturned hoofs of a deer topped by a furry cranial cap and antlers.
Being Maine and all, we drove to a fishing harbor and bought live lobsters from some lobster fishermen. These lobsters have big ol’ claws on them (prudently rubber-banded shut) unlike all the lobster I’ve ever had—the Pacific/Caribbean spiny lobster, which look pretty much the same but without claws; they also have really long antennae. The Maine variety is supposed to be superior in flavor. On the drive home we discussed the most humane way to kill them. It turns out there are many ways to kill a lobster but all of them are sort of grim, really. We ended up just dropping them in the boiling pot but only after Karen hypnotized them by rubbing the backs of their shells. I don’t understand the logic behind it but they stop wiggling and sort of go limp. I guess it’s something you just know when you live in Maine.
The lobsters were quite excellent; we extracted the meat and tossed it in a pan with butter, olive oil, salt, garlic, and a little parsley. We also had leftover chanterelles and miscellaneous mushrooms that Ilana made into a lovely ragout. As an appetizer, Kurt made toasts with Brie and this awesome chestnut preserve we picked up from a co-op in Belfast that had a warm and honey-like flavor. Another complicated and tasty dinner.
Another food thing that Maine does very well is the roadside ice cream place. Often in a stand-alone building with a front window and a large parking lot. There are some really good ones and they always seem to have about a zillion flavors. Another thing, observe portions before ordering because it turns out that ‘small’ is something of a misnomer. We actually saw a person once order the large and it came in this siamese-twin cone contraption in order for the mountain of ice cream to possibly fit. The look on the guy’s face as he was handed this bounty of dairy might have been described as “triumphant.” We were advised to order ‘mini’ or ‘kiddie’ or ‘tiny’ or whatever the local slang happened to be and that was plenty.
(Parting shot. We stopped here for sandwiches on our way to a hike on the coast. A lobster roll, by the way, is a toasted hot-dog bun thing with lobster tossed in mayo inside. They can be good but often are not.)